Below are some of the things that I've learned over the years that may be of benefit to people new to the marathon world.
1. Go to a local running store and have your shoes fitted. You don't have to buy your shoes from there but you should get them fitted. Let them tell you what type of feet you have and what type or running style you have. Different shoes satisfy different styles of running.
2. Get a good hydration device. Different people will swear by a different device. The perfect one is the one that makes you feel comfortable while running. Look at camel backs, fuel belts, hand held bottles, etc.
3. Experiment different energy gels. Some examples are, Gu, Cliff Shots, honey, etc. The best one to start out with is the one that the marathon that you are running will be giving out.
4. On all of our long runs, you will need to carry something stronger than water. This can be a sports drink like Gatoraid or a combination of water and energy gels. You loose a lot of salt and mineral when you run for an extended period of time. Water alone will not sufficiently replenish your body.
5. Experiment with your morning food. Before you come out to run on the weekend, try experimenting with different energy bars (i.e., powerbars, marathoner bars, etc). Some people will grab a banana or bagel before a run. You need to you fuel yourself before a run or it will come back to haunt you at the midway point.
6. Drink before, during, and after the run. This does not mean that you shove a gallon of water down your throat. Overdrinking will kill you just as fast as under drinking. This means that you should gulp down 6-10 ounces of fluid before you run and make a cognizant effort to drink ever so often during the run. If you wait until you are thirsty to drink then you are already behind the ballgame.
7. Experiment with clothing. Wearing cotton while running 20 miles in the middle of summer is not a good idea. Go out and invest in a wick-away type of running gear. Experiment with socks. There are the kinds that will wick away sweat and there are the kind that adds extra cushion to your feet.
8. Train smartly. Realize that it will take more than a week to get into shape. If you buy this supposition then realize that it will take more than a week to get out of shape. Your mileage buildup should be slow and gradual. Don't go out run 20 miles one week and 50 miles the next. If you miss a run, don't worry about it. Don't try to play catchup... just continue with your normal routine.
9. Rest is good. You will be running a lot of miles during the week. If your body feels tired, give it a rest. If you feel an ache, give it a rest. If you are mentally down, give yourself a rest. The extra rest will rejuvenate your body and mind.
10. Have fun. This is not work. This is a journey. There's the old saying that if you want to win something, run 100 yards. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. Enjoy and embrace the journey. You will realize the week after the marathoner is over that the best part of running a marathon is the journey leading up to it. The marathon itself is kind of anti-climatic. You will miss the training more than you will miss the marathon.
Good Luck All